The role of diminutives in the acquisition of Russian gender: can elements of child-directed speech aid in learning morphology?

Vera Kempe, Patricia J. Brooks*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Citations (Scopus)


Diminutives are a pervasive feature of child-directed speech (CDS) in Russian. Their frequent use might be beneficial for gender acquisition because it eliminates nontransparent morphophonological marking. To examine the effect of diminutives on gender learning, adult native speakers of English were taught Russian nouns, with half of the participants trained on diminutive nouns and half on the nondiminutive base forms. Over four sessions, participants learned to use adjectives that had to agree in gender with nouns. Learners were then tested on various types of novel nouns. The diminutive training group demonstrated better learning of noun gender, and better generalization to novel forms, indicating that regularization of gender marking through diminutives promotes the extraction of morphophonological regularities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-256
Number of pages36
JournalLanguage Learning
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001


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